The Sandman: Neil Gaiman Has Zero F*cks to Give Death, Desire Pushback

This week, fans of The Sandman were presented with the second wave of casting announcements for comic book series creator/EP Neil Gaiman, and executive producers Allan Heinberg (Wonder Woman, Grey's Anatomy) and David S. Goyer's (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Terminator: Dark Fate, Foundation) Netflix adaptation. And it's as impressive of a line-up as you'll find on any streaming series: Tom Sturridge, Gwendoline Christie, Vivienne Acheampong, Boyd Holbrook, Charles Dance, Asim Chaudhry, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Mason Alexander Park, Donna Preston, Jenna Coleman, Niamh Walsh, Joely Richardson, David Thewlis, Kyo Ra, Stephen Fry, Razane Jammal, Sandra James Young, and Patton Oswalt. But apparently, there are some self-proclaimed Sandman gatekeepers out there taking issue with some of the casting decisions- the choice of a Black actress for Death (Howell-Baptiste) and having Desire (Park) listed as non-binary.

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Image: Screencap

And to say that they've been vocal on social media about comes as no surprise- but when someone thought to call out Gaiman on Twitter- inferring that he was a "sell out," questioning his "intestinal fortitude," and questioning Gaiman's "don't give a f*ck" attitude." Bad move, because Gaiman was having none of that nonsense. "I give all the fucks about the work. I spent 30 years successfully battling bad movies of Sandman," Gaiman responded (see above), and then followed up by letting this individual (name withheld to protect the ignorant) and everyone else know what he gives "zero f*cks" about. "I give zero fucks about people who don't understand/ haven't read Sandman whining about a non-binary Desire or that Death isn't white enough. Watch the show, make up your minds," Gaiman concluded. The important point about actually reading and understanding the comics before taking to social media to vent faux outrage was driven home again later by Gaiman, who emphasized it in a retweet where a reader brings up the point that Desire was always non-binary:

Here's a look back at Gaiman offering his thoughts on both the characters he created as well as why the actors selected are the best shepherds to bring those characters to life on the screen:

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Image: Netflix

DEATH – Dream's wiser, nicer, and much more sensible sister. Significantly harder to cast than you might imagine (well, than I imagined, anyway). Hundreds of talented women from all around the planet auditioned, and they were brilliant, and none of them were right. Someone who could speak the truth to Dream, on the one hand, but also be the person you'd want to meet when your life was done on the other. And then we saw Kirby Howell-Baptiste's (she/her) audition and we knew we had our Death.

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Image: Netflix

DESIRE – Dream's sibling and everything you want, whatever you want and whoever you are. Desire is also trouble for Dream. Families are complicated. We had barely started looking when Mason Alexander Park (they/them) reached out on Twitter, and threw their hat into the ring. We were thrilled when they got the part.

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Image: Netflix

DESPAIR – Desire's twin, Dream's sister. She is the moment when all hope is gone, the bleakest of the Endless. Donna Preston (she/her) will be playing her, and her performance is chilling and sad. You feel her pain.

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Image: Netflix

JOHANNA CONSTANTINE – Eighteenth Century occult adventuress, John Constantine's great-great-great grandmother. This Sandman character became so popular that she even had her own spin-off series. I created her to fill the role that John Constantine does in the past. When we broke down the first season, given that we knew that we would be encountering Johanna in the past, we wondered what would happen if we met a version of her in the present as well. We tried it and the script was sparkier, feistier, and in some ways even more fun. So having written her, we just had to cast her. Jenna Coleman (she/her) gave us the Johanna of our dreams – tough, brilliant, tricky, haunted and probably doomed.

sandman
Image: Netflix
sandman
Image: Netflix

ETHEL CRIPPS – Roderick Burgess's love, John Dee's mother, is a small but vital role in the comics, but she became more important as we told our story. In the 1920s and 30s, she is played by Niamh Walsh (she/her): a betrayed and determined young woman seeking to survive. In the present day, now a woman of a hundred identities and a thousand lies, she's played by the brilliant Joely Richardson (she/her).

The Sandman: Neil Gaiman Has Zero F*cks to Give Death, Desire Pushback
Image: Netflix

JOHN DEE – Ethel's son is dangerous. He was driven mad, long ago. Now he's out and on a quest for Truth that may destroy the world. We needed an actor who could break your heart and keep your sympathy while taking you into the darkest places. We were lucky that David Thewlis (he/him) took the part.

The Sandman: Neil Gaiman Has Zero F*cks to Give Death, Desire Pushback
Image: Netflix

ROSE WALKER – a young woman on a desperate search for her missing brother, who finds a family she didn't know that she had, and a connection to Dream that neither of them can escape. We needed someone young who could make you care as she ventures into some very dangerous places. Boyd Holbrook's Corinthian is waiting for her, after all. Kyo Ra (she/her) achieves that as Rose.

the sandman
Image: Netflix

GILBERT – Rose Walker's debonair protector. A dab hand with a paradox and a sword cane. Stephen Fry (he/him) is a National Treasure, and we forget sometimes that he's also a remarkable actor. Seeing him in costume and make up on the dailies made me blink: it was as if the comic had come to life.

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Image: Netflix

LYTA HALL – Rose's friend, a young widow mourning her husband Hector. Rose doesn't know that Hector has started showing up in Lyta's dreams, though. Or that strange things are happening. Razane Jammal (she/her) is Lyta, and she's terrific.

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Image: Netflix

UNITY KINKAID – Heiress, Rose's mysterious benefactor. She has spent a century asleep. Now she's awake, having missed out on her life. She's played by Sandra James-Young (she/her).

The Sandman: Neil Gaiman Has Zero F*cks to Give Death, Desire Pushback
Image: Netflix

MATTHEW – Dream's trusted emissary. A raven. I expected our animals to be CGI, and was both taken aback and thrilled when the dailies started coming in, and there was Dream talking to… well, a raven. But ravens don't really talk. The question was, could we find an actor who could make you care about a dead person who was now a bird in the Dreaming – one who isn't certain what's going on, or whether any of this is a good idea? And could we find a voice performer who was also the kind of Sandman fan who used to stand in line to get his Sandman comics signed? The answer was, we could if we asked Patton Oswalt (he/him). And Patton was the first person we asked, and the first person we cast, the day before we pitched The Sandman to Netflix.

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Image: Netflix

A rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy in which contemporary fiction, historical drama, and legend are seamlessly interwoven, The Sandman follows the people and places affected by Morpheus, the Dream King, as he mends the cosmic — and human — mistakes he's made during his vast existence. Now here's a closer look at the first members of the cast set to bring Gaiman's universe to life- beginning with Tom Sturridge as Dream, Lord of the Dreaming:

The Sandman announcement key art. (Image: Netflix)
The Sandman announcement key art. (Image: Netflix)

Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer, Ruler of Hell:

The Sandman announcement key art. (Image: Netflix)
The Sandman announcement key art. (Image: Netflix)

Vivienne Acheampong as Lucienne, chief librarian and trusted guardian of Dream's realm:

The Sandman announcement key art. (Image: Netflix)
The Sandman announcement key art. (Image: Netflix)

Boyd Holbrook as The Corinthian, an escaped nightmare who wishes to taste all that the world has in store:

The Sandman: Neil Gaiman Has Zero F*cks to Give Death, Desire Pushback
The Sandman announcement key art. (Image: Netflix)

Charles Dance is Roderick Burgess, Charlatan, blackmailer, and magician:

The Sandman: Neil Gaiman Has Zero F*cks to Give Death, Desire Pushback
The Sandman announcement key art. (Image: Netflix)

Asim Chaudhry is Abel and Sanjeev Bhaskar is Cain, the first victim and the first predator, residents, and loyal subjects of the Dream Realm:

The Sandman: Neil Gaiman Has Zero F*cks to Give Death, Desire Pushback The Sandman: Neil Gaiman Has Zero F*cks to Give Death, Desire Pushback

"For the last thirty-three years, the Sandman characters have breathed and walked around and talked in my head. I'm unbelievably happy that now, finally, they get to step out of my head and into reality. I can't wait until the people out there get to see what we've been seeing as Dream and the rest of them take flesh, and the flesh belongs to some of the finest actors out there," said Gaiman in a statement coinciding with the initial casting news. "This is astonishing, and I'm so grateful to the actors and to all of The Sandman collaborators — Netflix, Warner Bros., DC, to Allan Heinberg and David Goyer, and the legions of crafters and geniuses on the show — for making the wildest of all my dreams into reality."

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About Ray Flook

Serving as Television Editor since 2018, Ray began five years earlier as a contributing writer/photographer before being brought onto the core BC team in 2017.
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